Strategic Plan

The Play it Strange Charitable Trust was established in 2003.  During the first 16 years of operation, 5,100 songs have been written and entered in its songwriting competitions, and the trust has provided 750 recording sessions for songs written by 900 young songwriters, providing them each with a studio recording experience.

This strategy has been developed to guide the work of the trust over the next 10 years, building on the learning and experiences from the first 16 years of operation, and with a tightened focus for our future.

The trust’s core beliefs that have guided the development of this plan are:

  • Songwriting and performance help to forge New Zealand’s cultural identity.
  • Songwriting and performance help young people to find their own voices and grow their sense of belonging and connection with others.
  • Songwriting and performance can contribute to mental wellbeing, in particular for young people who may be marginalised or in minority.
  • The value of songwriting needs to be better understood and valued by New Zealanders, particularly those who work in secondary school education.
  • The Trust must remain focussed and do what it does, well.
  • The Trust needs to work collaboratively with arrange of expert partners, to increase our impact throughout NZ.
  • The Trust needs to build intergenerational support for its work, to ensure achievement of our long term goals, and the Trust’s sustainability.

Our Vision

Our vision is that “every New Zealander knows that songwriting is cool”

Our Goals

We have three long term aspirational goals in support of this vision:

Short Term Measures of Success

Longer Term Impact:

We need to develop our measurement framework so that we can evaluate the long-term impact of songwriting and performance on the lives of young people who participate in Play it Strange. We believe songwriting and performance contribute to growth in skills, confidence, identity and belonging, happiness and pride.

Our Participants

Our primary target group for participation in our programmes is secondary school aged young people (287,000), in 376 secondary schools throughout New Zealand, across all demographic groups.  In support of this, we aim that all schoolPrincipals and their 750 music teachers grow in understanding and appreciation of the role and value of songwriting, recording and performance.  The young people in our programmes are supported by, and we work with a wide range of people across the following groups:

  • The communities of our participants, particularly their schools, whanau and friends
  • Organisations that support young people with neuro diversity
  •  Play it Strange alumnae
  • Funding partners and donors
  • Sponsors and pro-bono service providers
  • Music industry people and related music focussed organisations
  • Media and broadcast partners
  • Performance partners
  • Government agencies

Summary of our Programme Outcome

Developing the Capability and Capacity of The Trust

To enable the trust to have a greater impact, and to ensure the sustainability of the trust itself, we need to invest and grow in each of the following areas, either internally or with expert partner support:

Our People:

With a core staff of 2.5 FTE, and the volunteer support of the Trust board, additional capability and capacity is required in the areas of digital marketing and comms, event/programme management, ambassadors and school relationship development, philanthropy and donor management, and development of our neuro diversity network.


We need to continue to build relationships with existing and new partners in each of the following areas: funding, event management and fundraising, insights and impact, within the music industry, education, broadcast, print/production, communications and PR, IT and technology, accounting and audit.

Insights and Impact:

We need to much better understand, and monitor:

  • The quality of, and experiences offered by our programmes;
  • How connected and engaged our participants and supporters are, and how to better reach them and meet their needs; and
  • Our long-term impact on the lives of the participants of our programmes. 


These need to be enhanced to both improve our core processes and ensure we operate in a safe and secure environment.


These need to be enhanced to both improve our core processes and ensure we operate in a safe and secure environment.

About us

Come inside our world

Songwriting is a craft of the imagination and we believe that the creative environment surrounding songwriters should foster, expose and celebrate these songs. 

We run songwriting competitions with lyric, Maori language, Peace Song awards and others alongside. And we record at least 40 finalists each year in professional recording studios.

Songwriting, performance, and recording are the three pivots of our music evolution.

Read more

NZ Songwriters have their own take on what makes songwriting a vibrant, creative practice - read their fresh perspectives in our Songwriters Speak page

Songwriters Speak

2017 Play It Strange Album

Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition Finalists - songs are free to stream and download

2018 Deadlines

We've designed a poster with all key deadlines and dates for our competitions. Make sure to stick them in your calendar!

Further information about each competitions entry requirements can be found below in our "Competitions" section. 

Online entry forms are now available for each competition.

Download the PDF and print it out, stick it up at school and hand it out to friends, get the word out there!

Download and Print

Different by May Zeng

Winner of the 2017 Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition 

Director/Producer: Mareea Vegas / DOP: Kent Belcher / Art dept: Alex Matthews / Editor: Zac Blair /
Post production: Henry Williamson @ Thievery Studio / Hair: Luci Hare / Makeup: Tiveshni Naidoo / Clothing: Thanks to Lela Jacobs
Special thanks to NZ On Air for their Special Tracks grant which covered the recording and film making.


Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition


The National Secondary School Songwriting Competition is the flagship programme of the Play It Strange Trust.

Read More

Peace Song Competition


This competition seeks songs with the lyrics embodying a focus on Peace. N.B. We are unable to offer the Hiroshima Exchange prizes this year.

Read More

Who Loves Who Competition


The Winner and all Finalists have been announced.
For all secondary school students in NZ.
The competition is judged based on the originality of the cover you choose to rearrange and sing, written and performed by a kiwi artist.
Supported by a Music Grant from Recorded Music NZ.

Read More

Strange Art


Play It Strange presents a Cover Art competition to celebrate all creatives at New Zealand Secondary Schools. 

This competition seeks an Album Artwork for the front cover of the 2018 Play It Strange Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition.

Read More

Sign up to our Newsletters

What we do

We do all sorts of cool projects

Play It Strange has worked for over 10 years, striving to provide secondary students with a platform they can use to pursue their musical adventures. We've held concerts, workshops and competitions, all with the intentions to provide the right environment from which students can gain confidence, self-belief and an impetus for a career path they would like to follow.

Read More

Songwriting is now an NCEA achievement standard

Songwriting will be offered as Level 3 NCEA achievement standard beginning 2017 - a victory!

Get Involved

Strange Friends

Patrons, Strange Friend Stars and our Strange Friends are a crucial and valuable community that support us.

We would love you to come on board.
All donations are tax deductible.

If you are interested in becoming a Platinum Patron or Strange Friends Star or indeed support Play It Strange in any way please give us a call, we would love to catch up and talk.

Email Us(09) 377 7919

Songwriting at University of Waikato

University of Waikato have completed their first Songwriting paper

University of Waikato summer paper ‘Introduction To SONGWRITING’ has just finished.
Students have finalised the tracking of their two songs and the results are very cool.

Read More

I Know This To Be True was conceived and assembled by Geoff Blackwell of PQ Blackwell, and Ric Salizzo. It is a book about truth, beauty and wisdom. "Sixty New Zealanders in the middle of interesting lives talk about what really matters, truth and beauty, and the things they hold dear to their hearts."

Royalties from the book sales will be forwarded to PLAY IT STRANGE to further their website and school programmes.

I Know This To Be True is an incredible collection of New Zealanders discussing what it is that is important to them. PQ Blackwell have generously donated all profits from book sales to Play It Strange. We cannot thank them enough for their support of Play It Strange, and we are so grateful to be part of such a rich, inspiring project.

The book is available for purchase from any good book store in New Zealand and online. Go and get one and enjoy!

Listen to more of our songs here 

The songs on our Bandcamp are free to stream and download. Go crazy. They are there for your listening.


See what our Alumni are up to

Play It Strange songwriters that have had their songs recorded for the annual CD are making cool inroads out into the world. Their career paths were fuelled from their time at school during which they sent their songs into our competitions and triumphed.

Here we have a selection of those who hit the ground running when they left school. With songwriting, performance and recording experience they were capable and poised for action.

Read more


Happy customers and clients

CUSTOMERS: Those philanthropic institutions, individuals, grants bodies and funding agencies. We applaud their generosity in supporting us and their focus on the benefits we bring to the society around us.

CLIENTS: The songwriters and performers that bring their imaginative craft and performing skills to bear and we are all rewarded. From the secondary school songwriting competitions to the recording sessions for the top 40 songs.

Read more

We Are One

A Concert for Autism

Watch Seven Sharp's story on our WE ARE ONE - Concert for Autism here

Photo GalleryNZ Musician Magazine Review